Turnbull Scolds Resisters in Child Sex Abuse Settlement
By John Ferguson, Greg Brown
February 9, 2018
Malcolm Turnbull is facing an acrimonious standoff with some states and churches over the $4 billion child sex abuse redress scheme as he prepares to make a national apology to victims.
The Prime Minister and a senior cabinet colleague yesterday urged the states and institutions to sign up to the scheme but the affected parties are still battling with the scope of the proposed compensation arrangements, which include payments of up to $150,000 each for victims.
Attorney-General Christian Porter effectively accused the states and institutions of using debate over what he said were minor policy details to delay the scheme’s implementation.
Mr Turnbull said a taskforce in the Attorney-General’s Department was examining how to implement the findings of last year’s royal commission into sex abuse of children. The Prime Minister, with Labor’s backing, said a national apology to victims was being planned.
“As a nation, we must mark this occasion in a form that reflects the wishes of survivors and affords them the dignity to which they were entitled as children, but which was denied to them by the very people who were tasked with their care,” Mr Turnbull said.
While the apology will have cross-party support, the Council of Australian Governments is expected to discuss the fallout from the royal commission today.
Mr Turnbull urged all governments and non-government institutions such as churches to sign up to the redress scheme.
Privately, there are considerable concerns about the way the redress legislation has been drafted, the amount of compensation that institutions will have to pay and the potential for third parties to be affected by legal action.
Victoria and NSW are the states most likely to sign on to the scheme first. The Catholic Church will join the scheme, it reiterated yesterday. However, officials said government pressure did not reflect the fact there was no legislative mechanism to join any scheme, with state and federal legislation needed to make a uniform system possible.
Mr Turnbull said: “I am committed, and my government is committed, to doing everything possible to make sure that this national tragedy is never repeated.’’
He added: “I urge all Australian governments and the non-government sector — churches, charities, other institutions — to respond to the report by June, as was recommended by the royal commission.’’
Adding pressure on them to join the redress scheme, Mr Turnbull said: “The scheme will fulfil its promise of justice only if we have maximum participation across all jurisdictions.”
Mr Porter savaged groups unwilling or reluctant to sign up. “Reasons for delay are now starting to look, for any independent observer, as if minor details are being manifestly and deliberately used as excuses for needless delay,” he said.
The chief executive of the Catholic Church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council, Francis Sullivan, said: “Survivors of abuse have been waiting too long for the scheme to get up and running.’’
Bill Shorten suggested an event at Parliament House to thank and recognise survivors.
“I say to the institutions and, indeed, the states: the time for lawyers is over, the time for justice is here,’’ he said.
“As of today, not a single dollar has come from any of the states or the institutions whose names and deeds fill the pages of this report.’’